Genres in Education

As an educator, my particular genre focuses on multiple things. To say that my profession deals heavily in one specific genre would be inaccurate. Education encompasses multiple genres and discourses. A lot of it depends on what you’re involved in. Some teachers have more responsibilities than others thus increasing the different types of writing they must handle. I don’t want to get across that my job is somehow special because of this. Obviously, there are many professions that require its employees to have multiple responsibilities. In my profession, we have to accommodate our writing for different situations such as lesson planning, communicating with parents, or communicating with colleagues. These three examples highlight how educators must be experts in multiple genres in order to be fully effective in their discourse communities.

Lesson planning obviously is a crucial piece for any educator. We have to be able to set expectations, differentiate, and meet state required standards. Doing this, however, requires us to know the complexities of lesson planning before hand. Lesson planning is a genre in itself. This deals specifically with modes. Gunther Kress says, “The materiality of the different modes— sound for speech, light for image, body for dance— means that not everything can be realized in every mode with equal facility, and that we cannot transport mode-specific theories from one mode to another without severe distortions” (Kress, 39). I have to respectfully, however, disagree with Mr. Kress on this topic. Educators must effectively incorporate different modes together in order to have a successful lesson. This is because not every student is the same. They all learn differently. And when I say all I mean ALL. I have to be able to appeal to my auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. I’ll admit, more times than not I probably appeal to one of those more than the other two. However, if a teacher is not at least attempting to appeal to those learning styles then they simply are not doing their job. For example, when I read Hamlet with my seniors we read the text first then we analyze a particular scene by watching multiple film versions of it. Sure, some students probably don’t need that visual example to understand it, but I would bet that most do. An ineffective teacher that combines these different types of modes would distort the lesson. Educators need to understand how to differentiate for their students first before writing an effective lesson plan.

How I communicate with my colleagues versus how I communicate with students and parents will depend upon the situation. Charles Bazerman, says, “The genres and the activity systems they are part of provide the forms of life within which we make our lives. This is true of our systems of work, creativity, community, leisure, and intimacy… These organized complexes of communications shape our ongoing relationships and identities, and within these complexes we change and develop through our sequences of mediated participation” (Bazerman, 15). I mentioned in the discussion board that this is basically the equivalent of wearing multiple “hats.” Meaning, how I communicate with one person will be different with how I communicate with another. When I’m communicating with my colleagues, I don’t write or speak with them the same way I would a parent. Education encompasses multiple discourse communities and genres because we must be ready to relate with people differently at any given time. For example, how I communicate with my 1st hour students will drastically differ from how I communicate with my 7th hour students. My hour students are still trying to wake up. While my 7th hour students are off the walls because school is almost over. Also, in regards to lesson planning, I can’t necessarily plan one lesson for all my classes. I need to asses where my students are at and differentiate accordingly. As Bazerman said, “we change and develop our sequences of mediated participation.”

The intertexuality in education is crucial. Devitt says, “If each writing problem were to require a completely new assessment of how to respond, writing would be slowed considerably. But once we recognize a recurring situation, a situation that we or others have responded to in the past, our response to that situation can be guided by past responses. Genre, thus, depends heavily on the intertexuality of discourse” (Devitt, 576). Understanding what my students know will help me as I write and conduct lessons. This is why teachers give students pre-tests at the beginning of the school year to assess them on what they know.. Before we can identity the figurative language in our short story unit I first need to teach them about similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole etc. Intertextuality guides everything I do when it comes to lesson planning. It makes me reinforce what my students have already learned so I can build upon it.

Bazerman, Charles. Genre and Identity: Citizenship in the Age of the Internet
and the Age of Global Capitalism. Cresskill: Hampton Press

Devitt, Amy. “Generalizing about Genre: New Conception of an Old Concept.”
College Composition and Communication 44.4 (1993): 573-86.

Kress, Gunther. Multimodality, Multimedia, and Genre. N.p.: n.p., n.d.

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4 thoughts on “Genres in Education”

  1. I really like your comments about differentiation and the multiple genres of teaching. In the way of improvement I would just suggest the beginning gets a bit choppy and it is difficult to understand exactly what you mean by “severe distortions” in paragraph two. In your explanation of the different types of differentiation you hit the nail on the head with learning styles, learning challenges by student and even across different hours.

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  2. Hi Danny:

    Thanks for speaking about the genres that are found and used in the educational industry. I found myself easily understanding a lot of your points because I, too, chose something similar to write about. (I focused on the genre of educational writing (and the level of) that is commonly found in a community college setting.)

    I do have a question for you. You wrote, “These three examples highlight how educators must be experts in multiple genres in order to be fully effective in their discourse communities.” While I see your point, and while I don’t entirely disagree with you, I do think that what makes a writer great is his or her expertise for a specific genre. I mean, does a poet write poetry better than Stephen King, for example? And why is that? Maybe it’s not so much that King sucks at poetry, but more so that King has his own genre specialty of contemporary horror.

    I may also be speaking from personal experience. I can’t write children’s literature to save my life, which is why I chose to teach college-level writing courses, not K-12 courses.

    Just my two cents. 😉

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  3. Hi Danny,

    You are right, education is not the only field where the professional wear “many hats,” however, teachers are masters at it. I don’t teach Hamlet at my grade level, but when the senior teacher across the hall teaches it, she incorporates many methods to comprehend the text. She has begun doing a lesson called “Hamleting”. Students make a Youtube video based on part of the play and they watch them together in class. Not only is it hilarious for the students, but the kinesthetic learners are highly engaged. It is a ton of work, but if we want to reach as many students as possible, we need to figure out what they need and how they will best understand what we are attempting to convey. Thank you for your blog, it fits education perfectly!

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    1. Hi Danny,

      Nice job nailing an awesome example of the use of genre within the discourse community of education! Lesson Planning works so well as an example because it really stands out from other genres in K-12 education: parent newsletters, report cards, pink slips.Your explanation of lesson planning as genre also works to clarify what a mode is, and how different modes can work together to make a lesson plan. Your claim that teachers need to be “experts in multiple genres” had me nodding my head vigorously in agreement. I think this section on lesson planning is the strongest part of the post, and I would consider adding a few other examples of genre that you use on a regular basis (perhaps from short list above?).

      I would also consider restating your profession in the first paragraph. I know that when I read new blogs I often click on random posts to get a flavor for what the blog has to offer. If someone was to click on this post first, it would be really helpful for them to understand that you are a school teacher within the first sentence–or, at least that you do something in education. As an outsider reading those first two sentences, out of context of the rest of the post, I might night realize that I am a part of the discourse community and click on something else (or move on to something new on the internet) before finishing the paragraph.

      On a similar note, I think it worked really well in this post to use a little second person as a way to engage the discourse community of this post. Your use of “we” near the word “teacher” creates a nice feeling of teacher-family or, at least, people interested in their job of teaching united by the discourse community of your blog post. To make this aspect of your post even better, you might consider using second person in the introduction too. Or, if you choose to only use it in that paragraph, I would consider making the section on Kress and modes a new paragraph–since you revert back to first person at that point.

      The only thing I am a little confused about is the incorporation of Kress in the second paragraph. I’m not totally convinced Kress is saying that using and incorporating different modes is no okay. I think he’s saying that analyzing one mode with the specific theory of another mode doesn’t work–for instance, an evaluation paper needs to be graded differently than argumentative paper, and a report card needs to be critiqued differently than a lesson plan.

      Your post has me really excited about the different genres we use in education! In all honesty, I thought our readings on discourse communities were way more interesting–but your post is changing my mind! We use different genres at school everyday. Thanks for helping understand that better through this post!

      Here is one more suggestion: Toward the middle of the post you mention posting to a discussion board, and since the audience of this blog is bigger than just our class it might be a good idea to add some context there. And here is a question about content: I think the definition on intertextuality you provide is really helpful, but I was a little confused about the examples that followed: Are the answers to students’ pretest questions examples of intertexualtiy in lesson plans?

      Thanks for getting me psyched on genre in education!

      All the best,

      Chase

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